To Trust a Rogue (The Heart of a Duke Book 8)

To Trust a Rogue (The Heart of a Duke Book 8) by Christi Caldwell Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: To Trust a Rogue (The Heart of a Duke Book 8) by Christi Caldwell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christi Caldwell
was a mother to this small child while Marcus lived his own empty life, pursuing his own pleasures. God, how he despised her for that; despised her with the same hatred he’d managed to bury years ago. Only now to be proven a liar in the street before the lady herself.
    “It is a pleasure to meet you, Marcia .” At the deliberate emphasis he placed on the child’s name, Eleanor tipped her chin up at a defiant angle, all but daring him with her eyes to mention the memory between them.
    “The viscount’s mama is a friend of Aunt Dorothea,” Eleanor said quietly, her voice surprisingly devoid of emotion.
    When had the young lady of his past become this stoic creature?
    Marcia craned her neck back and unabashedly stared at him. “You know my Aunt Dorothea, then?”
    “I do,” he said gruffly, schooling his tone around the child. After all, it wasn’t the girl’s fault that her mother had been a fickle, flighty creature.
    Then those brown eyes went wide. “Did you know my papa, too?”
    Jealousy, potent and fierce, filled him, threatening to consume him for the man who’d won Eleanor and given her a child. Then Marcia’s words registered.
    “We should be going,” Eleanor said quickly, color rushing to her cheeks.
    Did you know my papa?
    Not: Do you know my papa?
    And all the resentment and anger he’d borne toward Eleanor and the fleeting hatred he’d felt moments ago for the nameless, faceless stranger who’d taken her to wife, left Marcus, leaving in its place an aching regret for her loss.
    Eleanor reached for her daughter and Marcus dropped to a knee, intercepting her efforts to spirit the girl away. “I did not know your father,” he said quietly.
    Some of the excitement dimmed from the girl’s eyes. “Oh,” she said, scuffing the cobbled road with the tip of her boot. “My papa was a hero.” She raised her gaze to his. “He was a soldier.”
    “Was he?” his voice came as though down a long corridor, a terse utterance belonging to another. In this moment, Eleanor’s hasty flight, at last, made sense. In the note she’d left for him, but a handful of sentences long, she’d spoken of her heart belonging to another. She’d, however, failed to mention the name of the man whose heart she’d missed with such intensity, she’d fled in the dark of night. Now with Marcia’s revealing words, he knew Eleanor had wed a man in the King’s Army. That important piece somehow made his dead rival all the more real.
    “Oh, yes,” Marcia said with a solemn nod. “He was very brave and I miss him greatly.” She wrinkled her brow. “Even though we never—”
    “Come, Marcia,” her mother said sharply.
    The little girl sighed and then sidled over to her mother. “Well, it was very nice meeting you, sir.”
    “My lord,” her mother whispered. “He is a viscount.”
    “Marcus will suffice,” he insisted, not taking his gaze from the small child who by rights should be his, and was near enough in age that she could have been his, if life had played out differently and Eleanor had not chosen another.
    “That wouldn’t be proper,” Eleanor said, with a slight frown on her lips.
    Once again, he wondered at what had turned the giggling, bright-eyed girl of his youth into this guarded, hesitant woman before him now. “I insist,” he said, looking pointedly at Eleanor. “After all, your mother and I were once friends.”
    Eleanor’s body jerked erect as though he’d struck her. Good, she should feel something, even if it was guilt for not having had, at the very least, the courage to confront him in more than a letter and admit her defection. She’d owed him that.
    The little girl alternated her stare between them. “You were, Mama? So it would be fine to call him by his name, then, wouldn’t it?” Marcia continued on over her mother’s quick protest. “I do like your name.” She captured her chin between her thumb and forefinger and eyed him contemplatively. “Not the Wessex part.” His

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